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I've currently got a DFRPG group, and it's struggling a little bit. The main issue right now is that there's a good lack of communication between PC's. How can I encourage the players to communicate in-game more without being overbearing?

In our case, the PCs talk with each other, but plans never come forth on what to do next. So something might happen in the story, and someone will try to figure out what to do, but the others are distracted by something else.

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I am not sure you are diagnosing the issue correctly - doesn't sound like communication, sounds like coordination slash interest in your plot. Consider changing the question to be the actual problem with examples. –  mxyzplk Sep 10 '11 at 1:08
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@mxyzplk, yeah after our last session this question doesn't really explain our issue. There's some awesome answers here though and an edit would invalidate them –  DForck42 Sep 12 '11 at 20:57

5 Answers 5

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Info sheets. Specifically, unique info sheets.

I've often run into the problem that knowledgeable characters don't appear knowledgeable because everything they know comes from the mouth of the GM. They get used to the GM being the dispenser of information and assume that interparty chat is needless.

To deal with this I started giving my players cheat sheets with basic facts about the world. When the players were in charge of disseminating information they got used to talking to each other more. But I didn't trust them to bother reading more than a page of worldly folk lore, since they're lazy, and I had a whole lot more information to give them than that. So I gave each PC a unique slice of the world knowledge. There was some overlap of course, but everyone had some knowledge that was theirs alone to share with the party. When their information became relevant, players actually took pride in being the one to share it with the party.

For added shenanigans, I also made sure to distribute contradictory information, but that doesn't really help with your situation.

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Having tried this myself, some players will outright rebel at "scripting" the information. A few simply won't bother reading it. –  aramis Sep 9 '11 at 2:11
    
aramis, what kind of information dispensing do they prefer? I've seen players who are too lazy to read a cheat sheet, but I haven't seen any that outright rebel against them. –  valadil Sep 9 '11 at 3:01
    
Mine prefer the Make it up, and see if it's right of SOTC and Burning Wheel, Burning Empires, and Mouse Guard. –  aramis Sep 9 '11 at 3:21

Because you indicated Dresden Files... a FATE system game... While I don't have DF, I do have several other FATE games, and this is true for all of the others, so it should hold true for DF.

  • Reward intra-party in character dialogue with fate points. Especially if it's suitably contentious.
  • Encourage players to have one or more intra-party oriented aspects.
  • make use of declarative statements made to other party members as potential truths, even when not the truths you had envisioned. Have them make the skill roll, but don't tell them the difficulty outright; if they make it, it's narrative truth, and YOU adjust accordingly; if failed, the character still believes it, but it's false, and you hang on to your truth (as long as it lasts).
  • Let players KNOW you're doing the above.

Reward based incentives only work when the reward is temporally proximate to the desired behavior. (That means not too long after.) So, if they engage in a good dialogue, in character, reward them at the end of the scene. It does present a little bit of fate-point inflation, but that really isn't a bad thing, either, if you can get them spending them.

I've found that such reward based incentives, when done quietly with poker chips, both enhance play and elicit the desired behaviors more strongly than any other mode. Token economies, in this case the token represents fate points, are excellent, well established, and silent methods of reward that work well from pre-kindergarden kids to post-graduate degree professionals; even the Army and Airforce have adopted such a system (the Challenge Coins are a version of this). Almost every professional educator winds up using them at some point, and knows that they can be powerful.

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Before dropping more and more rules, have you talked to your players about it? What are their feeling in the matter? Why are they unable to formulate a plan? Are they bored? Do they feel they do not have enough information? What is their point of view?

One of the most common form of character paralysis is too much information, most of it out of context. The GM knows that NPC X is trustworthy but the players have no idea if he is, or suspect that he maybe on the opposite team because he wears black. All the information that the players have come from one source: the GM. All of it is coloured grey, some darker, some lighter. But it is very easy to lose track of the things that are important and those that are not.

The quickest way to remedy this is to "roll" a few dices and say "AHA, your character has spotted that if you link X and Y via Z, the following picture emerges...". Kinda like the idea roll is CoC. Or ask them to drop a spider diagram (dot helps!) of what they know and see what they come up with.

If the players are bored, ask what you can do to make the game more enjoyable for them.

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You need an instigator in your group. In my group, as a PC I usually am that instigator. Discussions on the next step or action between party members could often go on for extended periods with nothing being decided of significance. So usually, after I allow them enough time to have reached a decision as a group, my character will get bored and just decide on his own to go do something like wander off and explore or attack or go off and make a deal with an NPC by himself.

It would of course depend on the situation what I would do, but it would be usually be something that would make further party discussion a moot point. Of course I wouldn't do it every time, or even often, depending on your definition of often. But it is often enough that I have that reputation in our group.

Virtually every PC I've played in our group has shared this trait. Wait... maybe it's just me? Nah...

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+1 for a good idea that works, -1 for edging towards being that disruptive, camera hogging player. ^_~ –  Sardathrion Sep 9 '11 at 15:21
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My attitude is one of disruptive is better than bored off my a**. And the camera loves me!! ;) –  BBlake Sep 9 '11 at 17:00

Though the question refers to this as a group-wide phenomenon, I've dealt with almost every campaign group I start at least somewhat: There are always a few quiet folks who don't engage with their characters or the party. There are many different reasons for this behavior - it isn't always "shyness". I don't usually bother to dig into the reasoning for the behavior, I just work around it. My favorite technique:

Shine a Narrowing Spotlight

Give each character a special role, goals, and motivation [much like the new D&D Neverwinter Themes]. Tell them each that they need to achieve their goals to succeed. Make the roles/goals/motivations require interaction [need the help of others, need to find something, etc.] This way, when they aren't sure what to do next, there's always something to fall back on - something important to them.

Example: When I ran a Dragonlance module for a group, and Riverwind and Goldmoon were run by a couple new to D&D. She was particularly disengaged, attending because her boyfriend wanted her to. Here's what I did to get her engaged:

They were the last two survivors of their tribe, and they were imprisoned in seperate cels by the main villain - but she wasn't working to escape. So, I made Goldmoon pregnant (and she hadn't told Riverwind yet.)

Her main motivation: Save the baby at all costs, it is the future of the tribe. She must survive and escape.

Result: Near instant deep engagement from the player. Given a clear motivation she now knew how to respond to various events and threats.

When the big baddy delivered a Faustian ultimatum - between sparing her own life or that of her beloved, she responded "I choose to spare myself." I'll always remember the shock on her boyfriend's face...

[They managed to escape, and she delivered the good news which, in turn, influenced Riverwind's role-playing decisions from then forward as he adopted a new role: Future patriarch of a restored tribe.]

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